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A structural perspective to advancing complex social outcomes


Keith Thomas, Faculty of Business and Law, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.



A key question in advancing sustainability outcomes is how to devise a system of incentive structures that can improve capacity to guide interactions towards more sustainable trajectories. This paper examines incentives and associated rules from a structural perspective, highlighting social dynamics and workplace realities that shape actual practice. Understanding and using these hidden forces will be necessary, if policy is to successfully shape local and organisational processes in order to advance desired social outcomes. The social landscape model illustrated provides a framework to consider the effect of structural and social influences. Managed suitably, there is potential for positive shifts with suitable social triggers. This is a leadership challenge, and the necessary steps to achieving sustainability outcomes are identified as symbolic and procedural, shaped by local context and ultimately determined by agency that stimulates consciousness and uses hidden social forces to pull collective behaviour in the desired directions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.